chapter  10
24 Pages

PROPERTY IN THE BODY AND TRANSPLANTS

This chapter will examine issues surrounding ownership of the human body and parts of the body. The widespread practice of taking parts of children’s bodies after their death for research purposes has highlighted some of the problems that the law faces, such as who has the legal right to bodies or body parts after death. The inquiries at Bristol Royal Infirmary and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool followed allegations that body parts of dead children had been removed without consent. The subsequent reports by Professor Ian Kennedy and Michael Redfern have made numerous suggestions for reform of the law. Many of these have been incorporated in the Human Tissue Act 2004. The substantive provisions of the Act are not in force at the time of writing and are not expected to be brought into force until April 2006. This chapter will also explain the law relevant to the transplant of organs from dead bodies and from live donors. It will also briefly consider transplants from animals to human subjects (xenotransplants). The first organ transplants took place in the 1950s, using kidneys, and a wide range of organs and tissue may now be transplanted, including corneas, livers, hearts and lungs. The transplant of organs and body tissues raises many ethical and legal issues and the law has lagged behind medical developments in this field. The demand for organs greatly exceeds the supply and there are approximately 6,000 patients waiting for an organ (UK Transplant). A growing number of commentators now believe that people should be allowed to sell their organs, most notable amongst these is John Harris. From a Kantian perspective, others should not be used merely as a means to an end, and this would rule out transplants from live donors. The utilitarian approach would consider the overall benefits of transplants and would not rule them out in principle. On this basis, a kidney transplant would be preferred to dialysis, which costs £25,000 for one patient for a year.